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Early cultures often associated the sexual act with supernatural forces and thus their religion is intertwined with such depictions.

In Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan and China, representations of sex and erotic art have specific spiritual meanings within native religions.

Large phalli were often used near entryways, for the phallus was a good-luck charm, and the carvings were common in homes.

One of the first objects excavated when the complex was discovered was a marble statue showing the god Pan having sex with a goat, a detailed depiction of bestiality considered so obscene that it was not on public display until the year 2000 and remains in the Secret Museum, Naples.

When large-scale excavations of Pompeii were undertaken in the 1860s, much of the erotic art of the Romans came to light, shocking the Victorians who saw themselves as the intellectual heirs of the Roman Empire.

They did not know what to do with the frank depictions of sexuality, and endeavored to hide them away from everyone but upper-class scholars.

and they are shown with objects from traditional erotic iconography, such as convolvulus leaves and, in some scenes, they are even holding items traditionally associated with Hathor, the goddess of love, such as lotus flowers, monkeys, and sistra.

Historically, this exception was used in an attempt to ban information about sex education, studies on nudism, and sexually explicit literature.

Its current definition was added in the 1860s, replacing the older one meaning writings about prostitutes.

By 1864, the first version of the modern definition had appeared in Webster's Dictionary: "licentious painting employed to decorate the walls of rooms sacred to bacchanalian orgies, examples of which exist in Pompeii." This was the beginning of what today refers to explicit pictures in general.

As there is no direct evidence of the use of these objects, it is speculated that they may have been used in religious rituals, Archaeologists in Germany reported in April 2005 that they had found what they believe is a 7,200-year-old scene depicting a male figurine bending over a female figurine in a manner suggestive of sexual intercourse.

The male figure has been named Adonis von Zschernitz.

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